Maya Lucia could not have asked for a better start to the new year. The young Maltese player, aged 18, has been in an electric form for both her club – Raiders Lija – and country.
In fact, Lucia is at the back of two solid performances with the Malta U-19’s women’s national team as they faced Cyprus in a double-header friendly during the February international window.
Deployed as a midfielder by the Malta U-19’s coach Frank Schembri, Lucia scored the two goals by which the Maltese girls defeated Cyprus in their opening game.
In the following match, Lucia was on the scoresheet once again as she grabbed another brace, propelling Malta to a 4-0 victory. For the record, the other goals were scored by Veronique Mifsud of Birkirkara and Emma Ciantar Piccinino, who is on the books of Middlesbrough.
“I am quite pleased with the whole team’s performance, and mine as well,” Lucia told the Times of Malta.
“I went into these games knowing what coach Frank Schembri requires of me as a midfielder and that really helped me go into these matches with a concentrated game plan.
It is always nice to get goals and I am really happy with both my braces. Some of the goals I scored during these two games were probably my favourite of my whole career so far.”
Lucia added that there is not a better feeling than scoring for your country and that she will cherish these moments forever.
Besides cherishing, it will be crucially vital to build on these recent results ahead of April’s European qualifications that will see the U-19’s selection face Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan and Faroe Islands in round 2.
In the first round, Malta hosted Georgia, Israel and Romania in a tournament where they failed to chalk up a single point. This time around though, Lucia is upbeat about her team’s chances of producing better results.
“This tournament has really amplified the energy in the changing room,” Lucia explained.
“We all mesh really well together and have always had brilliant chemistry off the pitch.
In the past, there has been difficulty to mesh our different playing styles on the pitch but I think this tournament really stood out as we truly began to play harmoniously together.”
The Malta U-19’s player is impatient for April to show, together with her team mates, what they can do at international level.
Prior joining the Maltese camp, Lucia had contributed to a famous Raiders Lija’s victory in the MFA Women’s League.
The 18-year-old had registered another brace to her name as Raiders went on to upset Swieqi United 3-1, with the other goal scored by forward Leah Ayres – also part of the Malta U-19’s squad.
So far this season, Lucia has scored five goals as Raiders sit proudly in fourth place with 16 points, four of them registered after a draw and a victory against third-place Swieqi.
Asked about what’s behind the successful campaign that Raiders are having, Lucia pointed out to many factors.
“I think coming to Lija has been amazing for us as we are really well taken care of, and that environment gives us a place from which we can truly play our best,” she underlined.
“Apart from that, the importance coach Denis Guerra gives to us young players has begun to prove fruitful. That paired with the experience, maturity and character of our more veteran players gives us a unique edge which we have to learned to use to our advantage.
We have surely earned a spot as one of the top teams in the league but we continue to have the underdog mentality which defines us as a relentlessly hard working team.”
The commitment that Raiders Lija have put into the women’s game is also reflected in the youth categories and in the number of the players selected with the youth national teams.
In the U-20’s domestic league, Raiders Lija have secured 10 wins from 12 games as they sit second with 30 points, three behind leaders Birkirkara whom they have beaten this season as well.
Meanwhile, the recent U-19’s national team squad has seen six players from the Raiders Lija’s squad picked up by coach Schembri.
Lucia believes that having a team like Raiders Lija is crucial to the growth of the women’s game on our islands.
“The patience it requires to invest in youth and to develop an organised playing strucutre is more than worth the reward it brings,” she highlighted.
“The same goes for the whole club’s support towards us.
Apart from that, we are blessed to have an incredible committee who do so much for us, many as volunteer work. There are many people who deserve a great praise, but I must mention Chris Vella and Benjamin Muscat by name as the work they do is honestly amazing – our club is an example of how important investment and effort are when building a team.”
THIS WEEK’S FIXTURES
TUESDAY – 20.30
Raiders Lija vs San Ġwann, Mġarr Ground
Mtarfa vs Kirkop United, Centenary Stadium
WEDNESDAY – 20.30
Mġarr United vs Swieqi United, Centenary Stadium
MD13 bye: Birkirkara.
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